When was the last time you apologized? Five minutes ago? Five years? Afterwards, how did you feel?
When it comes to apologies, many of us fall into the following categories:
- The over-apologizer CONSTANTLY says, “I’m sorry” for every little thing. What that basically does is de-value their apologies, because they are so frequent and often not necessary.
- The apology-avoider leaves a wake of hurt feelings behind them that are never addressed.
- The pseudo-apologizer delivers apologies laden with excuses and justifications for why they behaved the way they did.
They may seem different, but they all have something in common. Rather than focusing on the person they are apologizing TO, they are trying to make THEMSELVES feel better.
The over-apologizer is quick to take responsibility, because conflict feels bad to them. The apology-avoider and the pseudo-apologizer are wrapped up in who is right and who is wrong. Their apologies (or lack of) are a way to avoid feeling like they are to blame for something. And if all of these apologies are to make ourselves feel better, then why don’t they?
It all comes down to the purpose of an apology. The purpose of a sincere apology is to repair a damaged relationship. It is to re-establish a connection.
It is NOT to avoid conflict.
It is NOT to justify your actions.
It is NOT to determine right or wrong.
It is NOT to check the “right thing” off your list.
However, that is how we often approach it.
But, how can we reconnect when we are so wrapped up in ourselves and how WE feel?
I have many times been an apology-avoider and a pseudo-apologizer. My apology (if you got one) would go something like, “I’m sorry for getting so angry when you blah blah blah, but I was upset because justify justify justify.” And the other person would hear, “I got mad, and it’s your fault.” Even though an apology occurred, neither of us would feel better.
So what does a sincere apologizer do differently?
They have a very simple formula, and when I say simple, I mean SIMPLE.
They apologize when it is appropriate and necessary, when they feel they need to claim responsibility for something that has caused harm to a relationship. This is not a right-wrong-whose-to-blame situation. This is simply owning an action.
Because the apology is aimed at the needs of who is being apologized TO, that person feels better. And guess what? The apologizer feels better, too. That is because it is opening a space for the re-connection to take place.
If we can swallow our pride and take that first step, we make room for forgiveness and love where once anger and blame stood. It allows both people to move to a safer, more loving environment where healing can begin.
Here’s what it sounds like,
“I am sorry for (my action).”
Period. PERIOD! There is no second half to this sentence. Full stop. It’s basic and beautiful.